2003 SEMA Hall Of Fame Inductee
M & H Tires
Most racers know Marvin Rifchin as the “M” in M&H Tire Co. He and his dad, Henry, owned and operated M&H out of the cellar of a little gas station at 910 Main Street in Watertown, Massachusetts. The two started in the tire business in the 1930s by producing retreads for midget racing—one of Marvin’s passions at the time. Midget racing eventually waned in popularity in the area, so M&H began to retread tires for stock cars.
As cars got lighter and lap times got quicker, tires began to blow. The carcasses of tire bodies used in those days couldn’t stand the punishment, so M&H began to use truck and bus tires. That worked for a while, but they were too thick and came apart as well.
In 1952, Rifchin recalls having to decide “whether to stay in the business [of retreading] or start making new tires.” Working with Ohio-based Denman Rubber Mfg. Co., M&H started to make tires specifically for stock car racing.
Bob Osiecki, a friend of Rifchin’s who ran a dragstrip in South Carolina, was looking for a tire with a better bite. Knowing little about drag racing, Rifchin went to the race and brought a few sets of new tires he thought might offer good acceleration and durability. Don Garlits was set to race with a set of similar tires. Rifchin suggested that he try a pair of M&H tires.
“I was about 20 years old,” said Garlits. “I knew about this man [Rifchin] who was into stock car races. He said that I needed a tire that’s not recapped. Marv had these tires that had the same mold but softer rubber. They were narrow, about 6.5 inches wide, but he said that wouldn’t matter. I didn’t know that much about tires back then and listened to what he had to say.” Garlits tried the tires and ran 160, earning Top Eliminator honors.
Soon after, M&H began to manufacture tires for drag racing and was among the first to make tires specifically for the sport.
“We made tires for all types of race cars,” said Rifchin, “but my primary interest was drag racing. That was the most fascinating part of my life. That was my primary interest because we had a lot of fun doing it.”
Uni-Marketing’s Harry Hibler drag raced only on M&H tires. He said, “When his product is on your car, you know it’s the best that can be made.”
When Goodyear entered the drag racing tire market in 1964, many thought that it was the end of M&H. Rifchin, however, found the competition stimulating and a lot of fun, and M&H continued to thrive.
“I think the greatest accomplishment that any of us could have were the tire wars that we went through with Goodyear,” said Rifchin. “The competition led to us being instrumental in securing some of the most fantastic advances to take place on the business’ mechanical and scientific side.”
“He was always the leader,” Hibler said of Rifchin’s tires. “He pushed Goodyear and the other tire companies to greater heights than they would have gone.”
SEMA board member Steve Bolio of Scafidi-Bolio and Associates said, “He’s just an amazing guy. He came up with blends for tires and was able to beat the big guys.”
Rifchin credits much of his success to the racers, “the fellows who used the product and gave us a report of what the tire does and does not do…. That’s what allowed us to advance our products.”
“One thing about Marv is when he knew someone was running his parts, especially when trying a new set, he would call the next week and ask how they did,” said Hibler. “He wanted to know if they handled OK.”
Rifchin was hands-on and worked side-by-side with the racers. “I remember one time he had a special new set of tires for the Winternationals. The Cleveland Airport got fogged in, and we were all in Pomona waiting for the new tires. We got them
on Saturday. Marvin was there mounting the tires himself,” said Garlits.
“I personally owe a great deal to Marvin,” said Don Prudhomme. “He took care of us.”
M&H Tires remains at the forefront of the industry. “His tires have resurrected themselves,” said Bill “Digga” Deguio, who has known Rifchin since 1956. When the two were at the Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield, California, last summer, they noticed that the cars were running the same tire design that was used 40 years ago.
“I was flabbergasted,” said Rifchin on his induction into the SEMA Hall of Fame. “I didn’t do anything that I can think of to warrant an honor like that.”
Thousands of racers would disagree.